In the old days we simply said ‘eat less fats and oils’, based on the observation that the typical Australian diet contains more fat than is necessary or healthy. The direct benefits of cutting back on fats include promoting healthy weight or weight loss and reducing the risk of some lifestyle diseases. Indirect benefits include making room in the energy budget for some more valuable foods and nutrients. Nutrition guidelines recommend that total average fat intake be reduced by a quarter, to less than 30 per cent of total energy.
For people needing to reduce body fat, a further reduction to 20–25 per cent of intake may help to reduce total energy intake. But guidelines for a lower average fat intake were never meant to promote a ‘no-fat’ intake. After all, fats and oils are widely distributed in foods and have many benefits. They provide a concentrated source of energy, and they make meals tasty, satisfying and rich in texture. They also supply essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, which are important to health. We need a minimum of 20–40 g (1–2 tablespoons) of the right fats each day to get enough of these nutrients.
Newer nutrition guidelines target not just the total amount of fat in our diets, but also the types of fats and oils we eat. Depending on their chemical structure, different fats have different effects on your weight, on how well your body responds to insulin, and on blood fat and cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, most of us overeat the ‘unhealthy’ fats and undereat the ‘healthy’ ones. The fats we overconsume are the saturated types and trans fatty acids